Mistake #1 – Using the Wrong Textbook
A good textbook uses only Hiragana and Katakana from the beginning and gradually introduces Kanji along the way. Translations are then usually provided in a separate book. We highly recommend the Minna no Nihongo textbooks because they prevent you from learning Japanese without characters.
Mistake #2 – Only Watching Japanese Anime or Movies
Listening is easier for most people but not very effective when learning a language. We know foreigners who have lived in Japan for over 20 years and are barely able to say 2 complete sentences.
Mistake #3 – Studying alone
If you only memorize sentences at home, you are not able to ask questions. In a group however, you can practice speaking with role plays and also correct each other. For many it is also an incentive to continue because they want to keep up with the others.
Mistake #4 – Learning Too Fast
Less is sometimes more. If you start with remembering the Kanji you encounter outside every day or that appear regularly in your textbook, you will pick them up naturally. Kanji used in context are much easier to learn than memorizing single characters with a map or apps. Making mistakes is incredibly important to get better.
Mistake #5 – Pronouncing English words like English words
McDonald’s is not pronounced the way it is in English. If you are looking for the next restaurant, you should say MAKU DONARUDO. This also applies to all Japanese words that have an English origin.
Mistake #6 – Comparing yourself to Koreans and Chinese
Since other Asian countries are more used to the sounds and similar Grammar in Japanese, they can pick up Japanese much faster than people from Western countries in theory. On the other hand, people from Europe can learn English much faster than people from Asian countries.
Mistake #7 – Speaking English Instead of Japanese
Some Japanese just want to practice their English with any foreigner they meet. This is no big deal, as long as you do the same amount of Japanese practice with them and do drift away into speaking English the whole time.
It is best to avoid “Gaijin Bars” (bars with a large foreigner percentage) and find smaller bars or clubs where you must speak Japanese.
Mistake #8 – Not Using the Correct Politeness Level
Conversations in Japanese are heavily influenced by the relation of the parties involved. For example, there are different levels of politeness when talking to a subordinate, a superior and a customer.
If you use speaking patterns from manga or anime during a job interview, your interview will be over in seconds.
Also, it is very easy to offend someone by using inappropriate patterns.
Mistake #9 – Speaking Like the Opposite Gender
If you are a man who has lots of female friends, you will unconsciously adopt patterns only women use in conversations. The same is true for women with lots of male friends. A healthy mix of male and female friends is the key.
Mistake #10 – Choosing the Wrong School
If your focus lies on improving your speaking ability and conversation skills, the worst school you could choose has more than 6 students in each class with teachers changing every day.